Mark A. R. Kleiman discusses approaches to crime and punishment in this essay


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I came to see mass incarceration as a social threat on a par with crime itself.

This essay addresses five questions:

1. What does James Q. Wilson still have to teach us about crime and punishment?
2. What could Wilson have learned from Machiavelli about “cruelty well and badly used”?
3. What conceptual and political errors led to mass incarceration?
4. How do we know that Becker’s rational-actor theory of crime was wrong, and that Beccaria was right about the importance of swiftness and certainty and the inefficacy of severity?
5. Where do we go from here?

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